Thai TV, and all of the local newspapers, are reporting a violent scuffle at Central World Plaza – another shopping mall in downtown Bangkok – between opponents and supporters of Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was, once again, officiating at a Prime Ministerial event in the mall that became the site of confrontation. A small number of injuries have been reported and now the political talking heads are offering considered analysis and reflection.
Looking at the images, it is striking that such conflict occured on a day when many participants – reporters, Thaksinites and opponents – were wearing their yellow shirts. The video of a woman in yellow, with some blood on her face, featured in at least some of the news broadcasts. That face was a poignant symbol of division and anguish.
As the days tick by, and as debate becomes increasingly polarised, the current crisis inevitably challenges the country’s political institutions to provide better answers. Whether from the perspective of “elections as democracy” or “democracy as a total system” – “democracy” is always the key word in the conversation. As the commentary in tonight’s TV coverage made clear, this has now become a fight over the “meaning” of that democracy. Everybody seems to have an opinion on its limits and its potential.
I have yet to hear anybody define “democracy” as fisticuffs in a downtown shopping mall. Let’s all hope that today’s violence does not lead to further escalation.
Update I: The Army Commander-in-Chief has provided his brief opinion on events. In the context of my original post, it is probably worth reading.
Update II: The Nation today has printed a long and readable discussion of the aftermath to these events, and gives lots of space to Thaksin’s detractors.┬К